Mistakes I’ve Made #1

22 September 2010 — 4 Comments

Photo: 'EXECUTED BY MISTAKE' by the_moog on Flickr

Everyone makes mistakes, and when it comes to my youth work I’ve made some clangers! Hopefully by reproducing them here, it may give you a bit of a laugh and help you to avoid doing the same thing.

Mistake #1: Embarrassing Young People
Everyone knows that our role as youth workers is to encourage young people and help provide opportunities for them, yet sometimes by accident we can embarrass them. It can happen in conversation, or through giving a well-deserved compliment which they don’t know how to receive. But sometimes, we can really put our foot in it big time…

I remember one particular occasion when I was hosting a youth event with around 100 young people in attendance. I was really enjoying myself, strutting around on the stage with a microphone. As we knew many of the teenagers, at one point we went round asking questions to the audience and getting their responses through the mic. I asked one group of girls a particular question and they told me that their friend would be able to answer it, but she had stepped out to use the toilet. At this moment, she happened to walk back into the room. So trying to keep the entertainment moving, and without thinking what I was saying, I turned to her, thrust the microphone in her face and asked: “How was your toilet trip? Did you go for a number ‘one’ or number ‘two’?”

Those few seconds of awkward silence seemed like an eternity as I desperately hoped someone else would come to my rescue. Maybe my co-host would change the subject? Maybe the fire alarm might go off? Maybe, just maybe she would burst out laughing and answer the question?

But the look of horror and embarrassment on her face was awful. I remember thinking in that moment that I should never, ever open my mouth again. To get out of it, I quickly mumbled something about it not really mattering and moved on to another group with another question without catching the poor girl’s eye.

I know that I really upset and embarrassed that young lady (and I tried to make up for it later). I’ve never forgotten that moment and still cringe whenever I recall it. But it did teach me to be a little more sensitive and thoughtful before opening my mouth.

So what about you? Have YOU ever put your foot in it and embarrassed a young person? Share with us in the comments!

Photo Credit: the_moog on Flickr


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I am a qualified youth worker, writer and consultant based in Littlehampton, UK. I've worked in the voluntary youth sector for over 12 years, am married to Kirsty and we have two daughters named Hope and Eloise. Check out 'Journeying Together: Growing Youth Work and Youth Workers in Local Communities' and read my opening chapter.

4 responses to Mistakes I’ve Made #1

  1. I remember this event very very well!

  2. My favourite mistake of yours was still one Christmas….

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